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The Best Characters From SNL's Weekend Update, Ranked

Since "Saturday Night Live" first aired in 1975, the show has become an irreplaceable part of both pop culture and late-night television history. In the very first episode, viewers at home were introduced to a segment known as "Weekend Update," in which a cast member would report on news headlines from the previous weeks with a comedic edge. The segment was originated by Chevy Chase, but has since been the launchpad for future stars like Norm MacDonald, Tina Fey, and Seth Meyers. 

Outside of the fake news, "Weekend Update" has also become a home for some of the most iconic characters to come from "Saturday Night Live." Whereas many recurring characters on the show made their debut in live sketches or digital shorts, these figures are invited onto "Weekend Update" to comment on current events or provide expertise about various relevant topics. As one can imagine, many of these appearances go off the rails for either the characters or "Weekend Update" anchors. 

Throughout the history of "Weekend Update," character pieces have included celebrity impressions, parodies, and original characters. For this list, the focus will mainly be on original characters who not only redefined the legacies of the individual "SNL" cast member who played them, but also successfully entertained audiences both in the studio and at home. 

12. Jacob Silj

Will Ferrell is often regarded as one of the greatest "Saturday Night Live" cast members, with a plethora of iconic characters and sketches. From his deadpan Alex Trebek in "Celebrity Jeopardy" to the over-eager Spartan cheerleader with Cheri Oteri, Ferrell had a big presence on "SNL" between 1995 and 2002 when he was a cast member. This was also true on the "Weekend Update" desk, where Ferrell perfected his Harry Caray impression and his opinionated frat boy Randy Graves. 

Among Ferrell's memorable appearances on "Weekend Update" was the recurring character Jacob Silj, a current events commentator with Voice Immodulation Syndrome (a disease that may or may not exist). As a result of his disability, Silj is, by his own admission, unable to control the volume or tone of his voice, resulting in commentary that is loud and stiff, often to the detriment of "Weekend Update" anchors like Tina Fey or Colin Quinn. 

During Ferrell's fourth time hosting "Saturday Night Live" in 2018, he reprised the role of Jacob Silj on "Weekend Update" opposite current anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che. Although Ferrell excelled with sketches, his performances as Jacob Silj proved he was a commanding presence on "SNL," with Vulture crediting his ability to "[make] the material sing even if it's just a cue card with the stage direction, Talk loudly."

11. The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with at a Party

Many newcomers to "Saturday Night Live" would pray for a memorable "Weekend Update" character during their first season, but Cecily Strong had nothing to fear. The Second City alum joined "SNL" in 2012, debuting The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with a Party early on, which quickly became a huge hit with audiences. So much so, in fact, that the character made a cameo with other iconic "Weekend Update" characters at the end of the season to bid farewell to veteran cast member Bill Hader. 

The character was shockingly absent from the following season when Cecily Strong inherited the job of co-anchoring "Weekend Update" for one season, but the comedian was quickly lured away from the role so that she could create her own characters. The next few years of Strong's "SNL" career saw many great roles, but few were as immediately memorable as The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with a Party.

It's easy to see why the character was such a hit, considering how committed Strong's performance was in confidently ranting about something she knows nothing about. Sadly, the character didn't make an appearance for years prior to Strong's "SNL" departure in 2022, with her last portrayal in March 2020 as the character eerily commented on the coronavirus outbreaks. 

10. Olya Povlatsky

It didn't take long for Kate McKinnon to transition from the freshest face on "Saturday Night Live" to one of the most dominant cast members during her tenure on the show. The comedian especially excelled on "Weekend Update," which let her shine with political impressions of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jeff Sessions, as well as original characters like her Smokery Farms bit with Aidy Bryant. However, a character like Olya Povlatsky showcased what an original voice McKinnon was on the late-night comedy program.

Hailing from a remote village in Russia, Olya Povlatsky would join "Weekend Update" on numerous occasions to provide a Russian perspective on news related to the country. Oftentimes, her anecdotes about village life come across as glum in an optimistic way that only a cast member like McKinnon could pull off. Because of her country's lack of access to the modern world, her pop culture references are outdated, and she boasts being the most attractive woman in her village. 

Sadly, the character was retired by McKinnon after the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, appearing for the last time in a cold open with Beck Bennett's Vladimir Putin, Olya's first time outside the "Weekend Update" desk. Still, Olya Povlatsky was a stand-out character in the preceding years, and remains one of McKinnon's best performances on the entire show. 

9. The Iceberg That Sank The Titanic

Bowen Yang quickly established himself as a "Weekend Update" legend after joining "Saturday Night Live" in 2019. His character Chen Biao debuted in the comedian's second-ever episode, offering a fresh take on US-China relations, but Yang's best on the segment was yet to come. In 2021, Yang appeared on "Weekend Update" as The Iceberg That Sank the Titanic, a one-off character piece that firmly cemented him as one of the comedic centerpieces of the show's current era.

Surprisingly, the bit almost didn't make it to air. In a cover story for Entertainment Weekly, Yang expressed his love for the piece and others like it, saying, "It's stuff where you're like, 'Wait, couldn't it be possible that other people find this just as funny as I do?'" Fortunately, the audience was entirely receptive to Yang's performance as the Iceberg, re-imagining the chunk of ice as a queer icon desperate to overcome the "drama" of his past and promote his new musical career.

The sketch continued to blow up on social media following the episode, and Yang ended up garnering his first Emmy nomination for "Saturday Night Live" as a result. Although the character was one-and-done, plenty of Bowen Yang fans are still clamoring for the Iceberg's "hyper-pop, EDM, nu-disco, fantasia" album. 

8. Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy

Vanessa Bayer was one of the most underrated repertory players on "Saturday Night Live" during her seven-year tenure. Among her best "Weekend Update" performances were her Fred Armisen-assisted "Best Friends From Growing Up," where they would gossip about destructive world leaders they used to know, to incoherent weather reporter Dawn Lazarus, who was reprised by Bayer during her final episode as a swan song for the comedienne.

However, there wasn't a character audiences loved more than Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, who would nervously appear on "Weekend Update" with a prepared speech on holidays like Hanukkah or Passover. When talked to by hosts like Seth Meyers or Cecily Strong, Jacob would struggle to go off-script from the stand-up comedy-inspired presentation. In one appearance, Billy Crystal joined Bayer at the desk as Jacob's father, but he wasn't the only celebrity to appreciate the character.

As Bayer alleged to Vulture, the character was not only well-received by the audience but also by figures like Steven Spielberg and Paul McCartney. Part of what worked so well about Jacob was the character's relationships to the various "Weekend Update" hosts: "Seth set this precedent where he was always so amused by [Jacob], as opposed to being annoyed," which Bayer tried to build upon amongst changing anchors. 

7. Garth & Kat

There hasn't been chemistry in the cast of "Saturday Night Live" quite like the repertory players in the mid-2000s to early-2010s. Live sketches like "Kissing Family" and "The Californians" showcased just how fun the show could be when you put comedians like Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig in a scene together. A great example of this chemistry is the recurring "Weekend Update" duo Garth & Kat, portrayed by Armisen and Wiig, who were frequent guests of the Meyers-hosted era of "Weekend Update."

Always introduced as Meyers' favorite singers, Garth & Kat would run to the desk seemingly late and unprepared for their appearance. The duo would then improvise a holiday-inspired song, which was mostly just Armisen unpredictably leading the way for Wiig to follow. Wiig talked about the experience of performing Garth & Kat with Armisen completely on the fly, saying "It's the most fun I have because so much of the show is writing, working, deadlines ... And that two and a half minutes of airtime is so freeing and fun," (via Vulture).

In one appearance, the duo was also joined by backup singer Jan, played by Coldplay's Chris Martin, who followed Wiig along in the confusion. These characters, a rare example of spontaneity on "Saturday Night Live," make for some of the most memorable watches, if only to enjoy the pure fun of Armisen and Wiig in their tacky sweater vests. 

6. Opera Man

Adam Sandler was a frequent guest on "Weekend Update" when he was a cast member on "Saturday Night Live," which is where he originated iconic bits like "The Hanukkah Song," in which he reminds audiences of which celebrities are Jewish in every installment. One of his most popular recurring pieces on "Weekend Update" was another musical act: Opera Man, who comments on current events to the tune of operatic arias. 

Sandler's debut of Opera Man wasn't just beloved by audiences, but it was also the source of jealousy for former cast members. Jon Lovitz, who had departed from the show the year before Sandler's hiring, told Vulture that he had to call Sandler after seeing Opera Man, telling him "I wish I would've thought of that one. It's so funny." Lovitz ended up appearing on "SNL" to portray Opera Man's cousin. 

The character has become one of Sandler's most iconic characters from "Saturday Night Live," and was since reprised by the comedian during the 40th Anniversary Special, as well as when Sandler hosted the show for the very first time in 2019. It wasn't the plan for Opera Man to be reprised in 2019, but as Sandler recounted on CONAN, co-writer Robert Smigel "called [him] up and says, 'I think you have to do Opera Man.'" Not many cast members from "SNL" have walked away from the show with a character who they simply must reprise every time they make an appearance.

5. Goober the Clown

While The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with a Party was an early hit for Cecily Strong, later in her "Saturday Night Live" tenure the comedian garnered a different kind of acclaim for a "Weekend Update" piece. In 2021, following Supreme Court disputes over abortion rights, Strong appeared on "Weekend Update" as Goober, the Clown Who Had an Abortion When She Was 23. As audiences quickly figured out, the sketch was a not-so-subtle metaphor for Strong's frustration towards abortion legislation, referencing her own experiences in the sketch.

As Goober the Clown explains in the sketch, "I wish I didn't have to do this, because the abortion I had at 23 is my personal clown business, but that's all some people in this country want to discuss all the time, even though clown abortion was legalized in Clown v. Wade in 1973." The character blew up on social media the following days, resulting in more women coming forward with their own experiences with abortion to stress the necessity for safe access to healthcare. 

Although the subject matter was tricky, the success of Goober the Clown has ultimately been credited to Strong's character work. As "SNL" writer Anna Drezen told Variety, "Cecily has such a sway over audiences and her passion just really comes through." In terms of impact alone, Goober the Clown is one of the most memorable "Weekend Update" characters in recent years. 

4. Bennett Brauer

It's impossible to talk about the greatest anything on "Saturday Night Live" without acknowledging the brilliance of Chris Farley. The comedian was a powerhouse during his years on the show, from the pathetic motivational speeches of Matt Foley to the perfect performances of the Gap Girls. Few comics on "SNL" have had as much of an unrelenting hold on audiences as Farley, which is never more present than in his recurring "Weekend Update" character Bennett Brauer. 

Invited onto the program as a correspondent, Brauer doesn't do commentary as much as he gets sidetracked by criticisms of his appearance and personality, which range from constructive to downright cruel. Once Farley gets going, you rarely hear an audience less silent as he gestures with air quotes for each comment: "I'm not 'camera-friendly.' I don't 'wear clothes that fit me' ... I'm not 'hygienic.' I don't 'wipe properly.' I lack 'style.'"

In Bennett Brauer's best "Weekend Update" appearance, and perhaps one of Farley's most iconic moments on the show, his typical self-criticisms are interrupted by the character being hoisted into the air on a wire (after getting briefly caught on a stage light that leaves Farley dangling until anchor Kevin Nealon unties him). However, seeing Farley soar over the crowd is worth all the applause the character finally receives.

3. Roseanne Roseannadanna

Gilda Radner was the very first comedian to be cast on "Saturday Night Live," introduced to network audiences alongside future greats like Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, and Laraine Newman. Although she passed away far too young in 1989, she remains one of the most iconic and influential cast members in the show's history. Among her most famous characters from the earliest seasons of the program was consumer affairs reporter Roseanne Roseannadanna, who would brashly respond to viewer letters discussing current social issues.

Roseanne Roseannadanna appeared a total of 17 times on "Saturday Night Live" between 1977 and 1980, with her first appearance being in a fake commercial sketch. Between the character's "Weekend Update" catchphrases, iconic quotes, and future cameos in Radner's post-"SNL" one-woman shows, Roseanne Roseannadanna, as well as Gilda herself, has been credited by many future "SNL" stars as being a pioneer for comedians of all genders.

Her performance as Roseannadanna was incomparable, although Emma Stone did the character justice, taking over the role during SNL's 40th Anniversary Special.

2. Drunk Uncle

Oftentimes, a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" stumbles upon a character who seems too good to be true. That's certainly the case for Bobby Moynihan, who described the origin of his iconic character Drunk Uncle as a half-baked idea he wrote with Colin Jost in 15 minutes after a late-night writing session. Since the character's introduction in 2011, Moynihan reprised it 12 times over the course of his tenure as a cast member, becoming one of the most iconic recurring "Weekend Update" bits of his era.

However, not all the love for Drunk Uncle was appreciated by Moynihan. During an appearance of the character on future president Donald Trump's infamous 2015 episode, which mocked the then-candidate, Moynihan was commended backstage by Trump, who didn't understand he was being made fun of. Moynihan didn't reprise the character again until his final episode as a cast member in 2017.

More recently, "SNL" audiences were reminded of the perfection of Drunk Uncle during Season 48, when Moynihan cameoed in the Jack Harlow-hosted episode on "Weekend Update." Even though it had been years since Drunk Uncle graced the "SNL" stage, hearing the audience roar in applause for Moynihan's grand return was well-deserved for a cast member as underappreciated as him.

1. Stefon

For a list counting down the greatest "Weekend Update" characters of all time, it should be no surprise to see this character at the top. Which other character was given an entire pre-taped send-off to commemorate their cast member's final episode, complete with an Anderson Cooper cameo and a church filled with Human Traffic Cones and giant baby DJs? All that is to say, few characters on "Saturday Night Live" have even come close to the comedy gold that is Bill Hader's Stefon. 

Co-created by then-writer John Mulaney, Stefon was originally written for a sketch before being repurposed on "Weekend Update" as a city correspondent recommending the hottest clubs in New York City, which were often skewed in the direction of Stefon's eclectic interests. However, the strongest part of Stefon's "Weekend Update" appearances was the character's chemistry with anchor Seth Meyers, which blossomed into a continuous romantic plot over the years.

Since leaving "Saturday Night Live," Hader has reprised Stefon a number of times on the show, notably during his hosting appearances in 2014 and 2018. In the latter, Stefon was joined on-stage by his lawyer Shy, played by Mulaney, who did everything in his power to make Hader break (which was often Mulaney's objective in writing jokes for Stefon). Though there likely won't be a Stefon movie any time soon, audiences at home can continue to hope that we haven't seen the last of Mrs. Seth Meyers.